Flood Watch: Red River -Update April 2-09 – Winnipeg Calls for more sandbag volunteers

Red River Flood Watch 2009 – Update: Thursday, April 2

sandbagsWinnipeg calls for more sandbag volunteers Hundreds of Manitoba homes at risk from Red River ice jams

Winnipeg needs help – more volunteers needed for sandbagging in neighborhoods at increased risk of flooding

Officials in Winnipeg, Manitoba are escalating flood preparedness activities due to spreading ice jams in several key locations in the city including near the University of Manitoba in Fort Richmond and in communities just to the north – West St. Paul and St. Andrews.

The 48 km long floodway channel that diverts water around the city can’t be opened until large ice pans and floes clear. If the ice were to enter the channel, it would increase the risk of ice jams at several bridges within the city limits.
The Red River has already crested to the south of Manitoba in North Dakota, with evacuations near Fargo being ended. However, the cold weather in Manitoba has resulted in exceedingly dense ice conditions with many jams accumulating at major bends and low bridges along the extensive Red River valley system. Although the river is not expected to crest in the Winnipeg area until after April 6th early next week – the existence of the ice jams makes it difficult to predict the outcome of a sudden thaw. Even if the river crests below high water marks, floodwalls and dikes, a sudden thaw runoff meeting ice jams could cause serious localized flooding.

Lockport Bridge Ice jam

Lockport Bridge Ice jam

The local Salvation Army is on site at several sandbagging operations with refreshments, hot drinks and meals for emergency workers and volunteers. Local volunteers looking where to volunteer in the Winnipeg area should call the city’s informations service by dialling 311, or by visiting the online EmergWeb service or Manitoba provincial EMO (Emergency Measures Organization).

Here in Toronto,
Project417 is on call with the Salvation Army’s Emergency and Disaster Services (EDS) operation if local Manitoba resources are overwhelmed by any increase in need for volunteers. If requested by Manitoba agencies, we would join the Salvation Army and deliver mobile canteens and crisis response units to the people in need. Visit Project417.com for updates on upcoming volunteer opportunities.

In the past year, Project417 has responded twice to the Texas gulf coast near Galveston following Hurricane Ike, as well as helping out with EDS meal services at two recent Toronto area apartment explosions that resulted in the evacuation of over 700 residents. My experience in disaster relief goes back to a 6 month stretch helping in New Orleans after Katrina in 2005 and last fall I took part in the Ontario Provincial EMO exercise in Thunder Bay dubbed “Trillium” – which involved more than 1,500 front-line workers and volunteers responding to a mock disaster simulating conditions related to the eastern Ontario ice storm.

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